CHAPTER 24 – II
Following the end of the Rae-Ko confrontation, Stievo sought a career change. He was viewed within the FBI as a gifted agent, possibly destined to one day lead the Bureau, but such a destiny was not appealing. Though his position brought great power, law enforcement came with too many restrictions. He felt as though the law often boxed him in, didn’t allow the freedom of movement that he required to accomplish his goals. Rather than chasing convictions, he wanted to share his conviction with the world. And since he was essentially a demigod already, Stievo did the next logical thing – he started his own church: the Church of Ahriman.
The flagship temple was built not in New York, but in Boston, a site selected for its association with the Salem Witch Trials of nearly 300 years prior. From the church’s inception, it was never entirely clear who it was that was being worshiped, or what faith it could be classified as, yet Ahrimanism spread like a virus. As with any self-respecting religion, there were enumerated prohibitions, but Stievo chose to focus more on the big picture stuff: “The world is scary but follow me and you’ll be golden.” His well-established reputation for justice gave him immediate credibility. His charisma and a national radio deal gave him reach. And his knowledge of the freedoms granted to religious institutions under the law gave him tools to combat his Other.
With Ahriman churches popping up all over the country, Stievo took his show on the road. At one of his tour stops in Appalachia he met some impressive followers who claimed to be big fans of his. Their names were Qira, Raysi, Audra Abisia, and Pete Sanil. They explained that they felt real power in his teachings, something they hadn’t experienced since their former spiritual leader was murdered (martyred!) forty years ago. His name was Moon Tat, and when Stievo found out that he was killed by none other than Glendan and Carenf (Aricame’s parents!) he knew this friendship would pay dividends down the road.
It was not all clear sailing, however. Not everyone was as infatuated with the Ahriman message. Gary Hun was an agent with the FBI who worked below Stievo. Though they never met in person, Gary didn’t care for a man who spoke in such pious platitudes and yet was willing to cut corners to settle his own scores. It was brought to Stievo’s attention that the agent was poking around the church’s finances and a private meeting was arranged for the two. Upon meeting face-to-face, Stievo looked into the man’s eyes and began to tremble as he was taken back to another time.
This man…a descendant…of Harry Augustina…a man I’ve never met but who mentored my father…taught him to embrace his Darkness…the Darkness that nearly killed me…Augustina, the man who caused such suffering…to my mother…Urissa!
Stievo regained consciousness standing above Gary’s body. His hands…shoes…shirt…face, all covered in blood. Written on the wall in front of him, in dripping viscous script, “I WILL BURY HIM”.
Higher Order-Lower Order
The best that we can hope to be
Is actualized potential
The rest, you see, ultimately